First, the good news. As you probably know, the Michigan House and Senate each approved the Great Lakes Compact. This demonstrates that Michigan will join the ranks of the states approving the Compact as protection against water withdrawals outside of the Great Lakes basin.
Unfortunately, however, negotiations ended between the House and Senate for the additional protections Trout Unlimited and other conservation organizations were seeking, and the Senate passed Senate Bill 860. This bill does the following:
- Sets aside up to 25% of Michigan’s waterways for future withdrawals.
- Rejects the Trout Unlimited proposal limiting cold water withdrawals to an amount that would not destroy more than 1% of fish habitat (they wanted zero but agreed to 1%). Our current law specifies “no adverse resource impact” – why should we allow for a potential adverse resource impact with this proposed bill???
- Does not require permits for any withdrawals unless they exceed 2 million gallons per day (except for bottled water operations which must receive permits for 200,000 gallons per day; down from 250,000 gallons per day). Essentially, this exempts all withdrawals except for power plants and municipal drinking water systems. Even ethanol plants like Liberty Ethanol which was proposed to withdraw roughly 1.2 million gallons per day would be exempt from permitting.
- Does not provide the MDEQ statutory authority to consider the public interest when making large water withdrawals permit decisions.
- Rejects meaningful public input into decisions about proposed large water withdrawals (because permitting is basically irrelevant).
The House is likely to vote on this legislation Tuesday morning, and they might pass this same harmful bill unless you help. Please contact your State Representatives to tell them how you feel about this legislation. You can find the list of State Representatives and State Senators for the SWMTU area at this link: http://www.swmtu.org/wordpress/?p=24#comments
The full House link is here: http://www.house.mi.gov/representatives.asp
One scare tactic that our opponents are using is to portray the permitting requirements as expensive for farmers , costing them over $80,000 – this is FALSE! All existing wells would be grandfathered in under the original proposal in the House bill. Only new wells would require a permit and the cost of this would be less than $2,000. No additional studies are required since that is the role of the Groundwater Withdrawal Assessment Tool that is being implemented as part of this legislation.